"Business was driving the care of human beings and, honestly, I felt that didn't need to happen," he told ADVANCE. "I tried to change it at every level - as a staff PT assistant and as a staff PT - and couldn't. I knew that the only way to make the human being come first and business second was to be on my own."
Rodia's first step was to go back to school in 2002, which he did while continuing to practice as a PTA, knowing that his ultimate goal was to open his own practice. Degree in hand by 2005, Rodia was ready to realize his entrepreneurial dream with the opening of Kinetic Physical Therapy in Chester Springs. Today Kinetic has five locations across the two counties with close to 20 full-time therapists as well as more than 30 aides and office staff.
According to Rodia, Kinetic Physical Therapy strives to be the PT provider of choice for people who demand the best care possible for themselves and their families. "We want to be the providers who can satisfy the consumer," he said.
Building the Team
Rodia first sought out two principal partners - Angelo Labrinakos, PT, MS, DPT, ATC, and Christopher R. Shearer, PT, MS, DPT, ATC, CSCS. Labrinakos, who began his career in athletic training, serves as Kinetic's treasurer and director of athletic training services. Shearer, whose roots are also in athletic training and sports medicine, serves as the corporate secretary and director of clinical quality.
Next to join was Cyndi Hill, PT, DPT, who took on the role of director of operations. "I believed in them," Hill said when asked why she decided to join a budding practice. "I believed in their philosophy - to put people first. I took a leap of faith and I haven't been wrong."
With the core Kinetic team established, it was time to round out the roster. "This is important," Rodia said when asked what he looks for in employees. "This is why I am successful."
First and foremost, Rodia wants to hire "good" people. "I figured out a long time ago that clinical excellence begins with the human factor, the way we treat and relate to the people that come to us for healthcare," he explained.
Therefore, Rodia asks each potential employee why he chose the profession. "Physical therapists usually get into the field because of science or humanity - they are into physics or into helping people," he explained. "I want the therapists who want to help people."
Rodia also stresses the need to build relationships and trust with patients. "You have to be willing to hear everything from a good day to a bad day," he explained. "You have to be a great listener and somebody who really cares about helping others."
Matthew Schildknecht, PT, DPT, fit the bill when he sought a position at Kinetic five years ago. "I love my profession," he told ADVANCE. "I believe in what we do as clinicians, and I'm proud to share this sentiment with the entire Kinetic team."
Schildknecht, now the Chester Springs clinic director, is most proud of the clinic's atmosphere on any given day, a direct result of the people-friendly philosophy Rodia has fostered. "Somehow, amidst people who are in pain or suffering from functional limitation, we've created an environment where everyone, particularly the patients, are frequently smiling and laughing," shared Schildknecht. "That's the magic of Kinetic. It's an amazing place to work."
Rodia found dealing with the insurance companies during the startup days as the most daunting aspect of establishing his own practice. "Understanding the way we get paid was the most difficult task," he shared.
Rodia needed to marry quality care to the way he and his staff would get paid. He accomplished this by handling all the insurance credentialing himself rather than outsourcing, a process that took close to two years. "I had meetings, phone calls and all the contact I could get with representatives at every insurance place," he explained. "I wanted to get everything right - put the codes in the correct place, achieve proper compliance, avoid fraudulent billing etc. - and be a good client of the insurance companies."
The next challenge came when the practice became multi-clinic. Rodia quickly found that he simply couldn't be everywhere at once. The staff was young and inexperienced in administration, and Rodia didn't want to make what he felt was the common mistake of placing a PT in an administrative role without the proper education and training.
"It wasn't until about two years ago that I had enough senior staff I had groomed, trained and so on to promote to the position of clinic director at each location," Rodia told ADVANCE. "Now they do the job better than I ever did!"
Hill finds fitting all of the puzzle pieces together - multitasking, putting out fires etc. - to be the day-to-day challenges of the practice. But overall, the greatest obstacle she faces is money. Specifically, Hill struggles to staff appropriately while being fiscally responsible to the organization and trying to cut costs while providing quality care. "How can we give our patients top-notch care while also surviving in this economy?"
One change that lightened the load was the number of PT assistants the practice carried. "There was a time when we'd rather have more help than needed than not enough - we never want patients to wait on their therapist - and we therefore went overboard," she explained. "Instead, we realized we just needed a few good quality aides who could help handle the volume of our caseloads."
Additionally, Hill fine-tuned the staff at the front desk. "We were using college students looking to enter PT, but that meant lots of turnover," she said. "The front desk is a busy and important place to be - you handle insurance, accept copays, take appointments, juggle scheduling - and we found that staff who are more long-term is better."
"The best thing I can do as leader of this organization is to put people in positions to succeed," Rodia told ADVANCE. "I look for great PTs, learn what they like to do and put them in a position to do it. Then I get out of their way. I won't micromanage; instead, I give autonomy."
As an example, Rodia offered Michelle Feairheller, PT, MS, DPT, who has a special interest in the adolescent sports medicine field. "Sure, she can handle treating a stroke, no doubt," explained Rodia. "But I knew that treating young athletes was her passion and where she could shine."
With Rodia's support, Feairheller created the Kinetic adolescent sports medicine program. Armed with a budget and various resources, Feairheller and fellow therapist Schildknecht implemented, enhanced and marketed the program. "It was all her idea," said Rodia. "And now she is a superstar and my organization is better for it."
Jason Elvin, DPT, began his PT career just over three years ago and was eager to do so at Kinetic. In that short time, he too has found his niche in several specialty areas. He and Schildknecht run the Kinetic mentorship program for new graduate hires that meets once a week to discuss a specific topic, review an assigned article related to the topic and practice manual therapy skills for that region.
Elvin and Schildknecht are also active in a task force along with five other Kinetic therapists who are combating fragmentation within the clinical practice.
"As we shift to a value-based system, our goal is to reduce variability by ensuring that we all deliver high-quality, evidence-based care," Elvin explained.
"We are focused on addressing the fragmentation of care that has become an epidemic in our profession," added Schildknecht.
Elvin is also currently establishing an acute spine program while Schildknecht is leading an initiative in the treatment of acute low-back pain.
Along with giving therapists the opportunity to grow within their clinic, Hill finds that success relies on "the golden rule" - do unto your staff as you'd have them do unto you.
"We respect our therapists when they have suggestions for the clinic or need time off for an emergency or to take an exam," she explained. "In return, our staff is willing to go out of their way to cover shifts, stay extra hours when needed etc."
Finding success is as simple as loving what you do, said Hill. "Remember that you wake up every morning with the care of human beings in your charge," Rodia advised other practice owners. "We are healthcare providers first, business people a distant second."
Jessica LaGrossa is a managing editor at ADVANCE.
Kinetic achieves this goal via two unique outlets-radio programming and free community events. Locals of Chester County, PA, can tune in once a week to Kinetic's radio show, Sports Chatter, on West Chester's WCHE.
Christopher Shearer, PT, MS, DPT, ATC, CSCS, Kinetic corporate secretary and director of clinical quality, takes calls every Thursday between 2 and 3 p.m. from local listeners who have questions and/or concerns related to their physical health.
And in another effort to stay "kinected" with the community, Rodia and his staff created the Kinetic Survival Guide Series, a two- to three-hour free community event for coaches, players and parents. "Want to know what we are about?" asked Rodia. "Show up to one of these."
Held routinely throughout the year, the series highlights various sports such as baseball, football, running, lacrosse and golf as well as triathlons and features speakers who provide tips on injury prevention, exercise and nutrition.
The most recent survival guide series held this past January focused on baseball, specifically pitching. The kinetic therapists and special guest speakers-including Scott Sheridan, MS, PT, CSCS, head athletic trainer of the Philadelphia Phillies-shared with attendees how to best warm up pitching arms, how to remain healthy during the season, etc.
"There are a lot of people who simply choose the PT clinic closest to home," explained Rodia. "We want to transcend that, and we do so by fitting everything we do closely with the mission of being the community resource."